Migration numbers: New Zealand records net gain of 65,000 people, but a large number of Kiwis leaving

Here are the latest figures.
Here are the latest figures. Photo credit: Getty Images.

New Zealand had a net migration gain of more than 65,000 people in the March 2023 year, a staggering reversal on the net loss recorded a year prior.

But we still lost a large number of Kiwis. The net migration loss of New Zealand citizens was 23,500, the highest since the October 2013 year.

The StatsNZ provisional data released on Friday morning showed in the March 2023 year, there was a net gain of 88,900 non-New Zealand citizens migrating here and a net loss of 23,500 New Zealand citizens.

This leaves us with a net migration gain of 65,400 people. That compares to a net migration loss of 19,300 in the March 2022 year.

Pre-pandemic, there was a 49,685 net migration gain in the March 2019 year and 50,932 in the March 2018 year. In March 2020, the net migration was 91,680 people - but this was as people flooded home as COVID-19 broke out across the globe. 

"For non-New Zealand citizens, 88,900 was provisionally a record annual net migration gain, exceeding the previous peak in the March 2020 year," Stats NZ population indicators manager Tehseen Islam said.

"The rebound of non-New Zealand citizen migration follows the progressive relaxation of COVID-19-related border restrictions from early 2022, as well as changes to immigration settings."

However, the net migration loss of 23,500 Kiwi citizens is also high compared to pre-pandemic. It's the largest annual net migration loss of New Zealand citizens since the October 2013 year. In the March 2019 year, we had a net loss of just over 7000.

"Before the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand usually had an annual net migration loss of New Zealand citizens. Annual net migration losses of New Zealand citizens peaked at 44,400 in the February 2012 year."

The overall net migration gain was driven by people coming here from India, Philippines, China and South Africa, the StatsNZ data reveals. 

For those first three countries, the number of people coming to New Zealand in the March 2023 year far exceeded the number coming in the year to March 2019, pre-pandemic.

Taking China as an example, in the March 2023 year, we had a net gain of nearly 12,000 of their citizens. In the March 2019 year, it was just under 7000.

Of the overall 133,500 migrant arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens in the March 2023 year, 63 percent arrived on work or visit visas and 14 percent on residence visas. Some migrants who arrive on temporary visas extend their visa, transition to other visa types, or gain permanent residency, StatsNZ said. 

StatsNZ also released the latest visitor arrival numbers, showing there were 2.18 million overseas visitor arrivals in the March 2023 year, up from 1.95 million in the March 2022 year.

In the month of March 2023 alone, there were 259,100 overseas visitor arrivals, compared to 230,400 a year before. However, it was down from 266,900 in February 2023.

The March 2023 figures also aren't quite at pre-COVID levels. In March 2019, there were 378,300 international visitor arrivals. 

The Government's been highlighting the increasing net migration figures in recent pre-Budget speeches. 

In April, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins addressed worker shortages by noting the Government had made several changes to immigration settings, including by putting more jobs on the straight to residency pathway and boosting working holiday place numbers.